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Greek crisis tourists stay cool

- by Andy Cornish

Greek holidaymakers appear to be enjoying the beach sunshine despite the gathering storms in the Greek economy.

Although holiday companies report a slight fall in Greek Islands holiday bookings for July, visitors are less worried about the economic upheavals than do most Greeks.

Hotel and taverna owners on hugely popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini say tourist numbers are as high as ever with rooms packed for the start of the high season.

Tourists visitors have had no trouble paying with credit cards and the Greek government allows them to use cash machines, despite local Greeks being severely restricted in cash withdrawals.

Most UK visitors appear to have taken the UK government's advice to take plenty of cash to see them through. Capital controls mean Greeks can't withdraw more than €60 per day but visitors have full access to their cash.

TV reports show holiday visitors enjoying the sights, sitting in restaurants and unaffected by the gloomy reports in media outlets. The only signs of the economic crisis are the queues at cash machines.

A statement from the Association of Hellenic tourism Enterprise (SETE) said: "Tourists currently holidaying and enjoying the Greek tourism experience have not been affected so far."

It may be a different matter in a few weeks time if the Greeks back the government 'No' campaign against the latest bail-out deal.

A 'No' vote vote could trigger Greek's expulsion from the Euro, leaving Greece broke and banks shut for days if not weeks while the country attempts to launch a new currency.

Even a 'Yes' vote leaves Greece with an uncertain future as, given the recent default on loan repayments, there is technically no bail-out deal on the table anyway.

A vote either way is unlikely to affect holidays visitors this season anyway. The Euro may take a hit from a Grexit, but it will still be far more valuable than any new drachma notes that may emerge.

The main problem in the longer term could be rising prices and some local firms going bust. Fortunately, the reliance on foreign cash means that tourist-based enterprises are far less likely to feel the cold winds of inflation that other staple Greek industries such as farming and shipping.

Transport could also be a problem for those that prefer casual island hopping to the traditional package holidays.

The vast majority of holidaymakers who have booked with UK operators, notably the all-inclusive hotel deals, should hardly feel any effect at all.

Tourism has always played a major part in the Greek economy and currently accounts for 20% of the country's GDP and brings work and opportunityis to many Greek islands.